It was not until after her mother passed away that Thibodeaux resident Susan Arcement found out how much of the culture she had grown up in was slipping away.
The 50-year-old Arcement was born and raised in Assumption Parish before moving to Thibodaux. Both communities, like St. Charles Parish, are located within the area known as the "Cajun triangle" where French language dominated for years and residents developed unique cultural and culinary traditions. She said within her lifetime she has seen the Cajun culture slowly drifting away as generations pass.
"We are losing our culture. I remember growing up I heard French being spoken all of the time by my grandparents and other folks," Arcement said. "I remember my mom saying when she went to school all she spoke was French and the nuns would punish her by rapping her on the knuckles. Nowadays I never hear French being spoken anywhere."
She jokes that there was more behind the loss of the French language than just assimilation.
"Our parents didnít want us to learn French, they didnít want us to know what they were saying," she said.
In addition to speaking French, Arcementís mother also cooked traditional Cajun food for the family throughout her life.
"My mom was an excellent cook. When she passed most of her recipes went with her," she said. "A lot of other people told me that too - that their mothers had passed away with her recipes. Itís a shame."
It was not until Arcement realized her daughter Kaye did not know how to cook the recipes she had raised her on that she came to a solution to the problem.
"My daughter asked me how to make shrimp stew and was asking me exactly how much of my ingredients she needed and I realized I was guilty of not teaching her the recipes," she said.
That is when Arcement founded Cajun Daughters, a website and cultural depository for all things Cajun.
For the past two and a half years Arcement has sent out a newsletter every week and added recipes to her online cookbook as they are submitted by those living in the region.
"I always have a recipe and a Cajun joke. And at the bottom I always have whatís happening at Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler – events going on around the Cajun coast," she said.
So far Arcement has gathered hundreds of recipes, but she is always is seeking more.
"Please ask your grandparents, ask your mom and ask your dad. If they donít have it written down ask them to do so so you donít lose it," she said. "I just wish more people would send recipes. People just donít do it enough."
Many of the recipes and photos Arcement posts come from her daily meals she cooks for her family.
"It just depends on what I am cooking for the family. My niece is a real good cook too and sometimes she will submit a recipe," she said.
In addition to the website, Arcement has also published a cookbook called "Cajun Baker" that was compiled from the few recipes her mother left behind.
"My mom had a recipe box after she passed away," she said. "I just took all of the recipes out of the box and they were mostly recipes for desserts or bread all handwritten and well worn."
Arcement said there were some very personal recipes included in the book that she still cooks on a regular basis.
"Her Tarte a laí Bouille was a real Cajun dessert and her apple pie was out of this world. She cooked it every Christmas. It was a paper bag apple pie and you cooked it in a paper bag and weíve never burned down the house yet!" she said.
In addition, she has just begun writing a column for a new magazine serving Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes called What Now?
She also has hopes to expand the website to provide tailored services for individual readers.
"I would like to expand it, maybe eventually have online family cookbooks," she said. "A lot of people want to have their own family cookbook but never get around to it."
Arcement said although it is her hope one day to make a profit from the website and publishing efforts, she is content now with just preserving the culture of her forebears.
"It is pretty much just a love thing," she said.
To submit recipes to Cajun Daughters, or to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.cajundaughters.com.Also check out the recipes below that were graciously provided from the Cajun Daughtersí collection. Lemon Angel Pie
- 4 egg whites - 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar - 1 cup sugar - 1/4 teaspoon vanilla - 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until dry. Sift sugar and add slowly, vanilla, and almond extract.
Grease large pie pan and spoon meringue into pan, spreading to edges to form side of pie. Create a shallow dip in the middle of the pie. (Makes a lot of meringue. You can make Meringue Drop Cookies with extra.)
Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
- 4 egg yolks - 1 cup sugar - Juice of 1 lemon - Pinch of salt - 8 oz. Cool Whip
Beat egg yolks and gradually add sugar. Beat until smooth. Add lemon juice and pinch of salt.
Cook until thick in top of double boiler, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, beat until fluffy and cool.
Spread lemon custard in pie shell. Top with whipped topping.
Refrigerate before serving.
JPís Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- 1/4 cup oil - 6 cups diced trinity (onions, bell peppers & celery) - 5 lbs. browned, sliced sausage - 5 lbs. baked chicken meat - 4 gal. chicken stock - 1/4 cup chopped garlic - 4 bay leaves - 2 cups medium dark roux - 2 tbsp. poultry seasoning
In large stock pot saute trinity in oil just until translucent. Add sausage and brown. Add chicken and stir until heated. Add stock and all remaining seasonings. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 30 minutes.
Always check consistency after adding roux. Gumbo should look thickened but not thick or watery.
Smothered Shrimp and Okra
- Olive or cooking oil - 1 lb. fresh cut okra, sliced about 1/4 inch thick - 3 tomatoes, diced - 1 onion, chopped - 1/2 bell pepper, chopped - Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste - 1/2 lb. peeled shrimp seasoned with Cajun seasoning
Pour just enough oil to slightly cover bottom of heavy-bottomed pot. Add all ingredients but shrimp.Smother okra on low fire for about an hour. Stir often so as not to stick. Once okra is smothered, add shrimp and cook until shrimp are done.
- 2 lb. crabmeat - Cajun seasoning - 1 pt. half and half - 1 can cream of mushroom soup - 10-12 oz. thin spaghetti - 1 stick butter - 1 tsp. parsley - 1 lb. Velvetta cheese - 1 bunch chopped green onion - 1/2 cup chopped onion - 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper - 1/4 cup chopped celery
Season 2 lb. crabmeat with Cajun spice blend of your choice.
Melt 1 stick butter and saute 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper, and 1/2 cup chopped celery. Add 1 lb. Velveeta cheese and cook until melted. Add 1 pt. half and half. Add cream of mushroom soup, 1 bunch chopped green onions, 1 tsp. chopped parsley, and salt to taste.
Cook spaghetti in salted water and drain. Put spaghetti in a large bowl. Add crabmeat and mixture and mix everything together.
Pour in baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
|Kaye and Susan Arcement|